From a carriage house on a sea cliff in York, Maine, photographer Nick LaVecchia braves the inclemency of the Northeastern U.S. weather to showcase a snapshot of the rare breed of snow surfers in Maine. Winter Storm Nemo was wreaking havoc across the land when it joined forces with the likes of another low-pressure system to bring solid overhead swell to his local shore. The only problem for surfers was the five feet of snow that came with it.
“I’ve always felt that the winter storms we get here in New England are way stronger and more predictable than the hurricanes when they arrive,” said LaVecchia. “This storm, Nemo, lived up entirely to the hype created online and with social media. Snow started falling around midday on Friday the 8th, and by dark we had about eight inches of light, blowing powder.”
“By sunrise on Saturday morning, winds were blowing at 50-60 knots with air temps around 10 degrees and another 18 inches of powder on top. My 100-year-old house was swaying in the breeze. Finally, on late Saturday afternoon, we saw the snow begin to taper off. Drifts were in the 4-foot range, and my car was buried. But then Sunday brought sunny skies, overhead peaks, and light offshore breezes*. The perfect winter weekend in New England.”
*[Editor’s Note: actually translates to frozen skies, frozen peaks, frozen breezes]
The same storm that delivered third-reef bombs at Pipeline buried Maine in snow—which isn’t always enough to deter the knights of the heavy neoprene. “Everyone has his or her own little routine,” says LaVecchia. “Whether they suit up at home and walk or drive to the beach, or they hotbox their car for a bit before paddling out. I’ve seen guys pouring jugs of boiling water into their suits before running down the beach. I like to shovel snow in my wetsuit in my driveway to work up some body heat before running through three feet of snow to the beach.”
“In the end, it’s all for the sake of riding waves. It’s the feeling it gives us, whether you’re in trunks on an 80-degree sunny day, or you’re dressed like a seal in a 20-degree blizzard. It just takes a bit of a different mindset to want to suit up and paddle out in those conditions.”